Cave Rescue, Spring, 1992
J-4 Cave, PA


On a cold, snowy Saturday in the Spring, several groups of cavers visited J-4 Cave in Pennsylvania. The entrance to this cave is on a quarry face, some 35-40 feet up. Theere are ledges leading to the entrance and it is regarded as easily climbable. The group in question was a joint party with members of Loyalhanna Grotto, Pittsburgh Grotto, and the Explorer's Club of Pittsburgh, some 14 in all. A Boy Scout group preceeded them and rigged a handline up to the entrance culvert which this group used.

On the way out, however, the scouts had exited and taken their handline, so the group had to downclimb the face without it. They did have some webbing and rigged some sort of etrier line that climbers could clip into as they proceeded, but this was painstaking and one caver declined to clip in. This caver (female, about 25) got down about 15 feet, at which point she slipped, let go of the webbin and fell 25-30 feet to the bottom of the face.

She suffered only a bruised tailbone, sprained ankle, and bruises. Apparently more serious injuries were prevented by the four to five inches of snow on the ground, a tree partway down that she hit, slowing here fall and directing her away from a larger tree, and the fact that she didn't fight the fall but relazed and took the tumble as it came. She was able to walk to the vehicles under her own power.


NSS News, December 1993 (Part 2) V51N12, Page 358.

Kim Opatka NSS Accident Report, June 3, 1992, 3 pages.


Opatka voices the retrospective obvious -- they should have rigged their own handline and could have had a much more usable line by undoing the etrier loops to make a continues, longer line that they could have tied at each end, making a handline that would ahve been easy to clip into. Opatka also reminds us that a caving party is only as strong as its weakest member . . .